Drivers 4 times more likely to crash while on the phone

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70% INCREASE IN PENALTY POINTS ISSUED FOR MOBILE PHONE OFFENCES  

In the last 12 months the number of penalty points issued for driving while using a mobile phone has increased significantly by 70% from 44,624 (31st July 2008) to 75,040 (31st July 2009).

Despite the fact that penalty points for holding a mobile phone while driving only came into force on 1st September 2006, the offence has now over taken seatbelt offences to become the second highest penalty point offence, after speeding, out of a total of 41 penalty point offences.

The figures, which include a county by county breakdown, have been published by the Road Safety Authority as its mobile phones and driving radio advertising campaign ‘Switch Off, Before You Drive Off’ takes to the airwaves in Setpember.

According to Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority, drivers and other road-users should be aware of the dangers of using mobile phones when driving: “Research tells us that you are 4 TIMES more likely to have a crash if you use a hand-held mobile phone when you are driving.* Using a mobile phone while driving distracts the driver, impairs their control of the vehicle and reduces their awareness of what is happening around them.”

Minister for Transport, Mr. Noel Dempsey, T.D. said “Using your mobile phone while driving is stupid and dangerous. No call is important enough to risk putting lives at risk. The facts are clear – drivers are four times more likely to crash while on the phone. The odds are not good. Don’t risk it. Just switch off before you drive off and you’ll potentially avoid a serious collision. Lets all work together to make our roads safer.”

Conor Faughnan, Director of Policy, AA Ireland said “There is no doubt that in Ireland we are a nation of mobile phone junkies. We simply have to get out of the all-too-easy habit of using the phone while driving. We all know intuitively that it is dangerous and we have the data to prove it. There is a clear responsibility both on drivers and on those who call them to put road safety first and let the call wait until later.”

Chief Superintendent Gabriel McIntyre, Garda National Traffic Bureau, is concerned that drivers do not appreciate the dangers, and continue to offend in this area of road safety: “The use of a mobile phone while driving affects a driver’s ability to maintain lane position, speed and an appropriate distance from vehicles in front. Judgement and recognition of safe gaps in traffic are impaired, reaction times are slower and the driver does not have the necessary awareness of other traffic. Drivers need to be aware that Garda personnel are enforcing the law on mobile phones on a daily basis, for the safety of all road users there is no place for them when driving.”

Concluding Mr. Brett said, “We understand that many people need to use their mobile phone as part of their daily lives but it’s a scientific fact that drivers who use a mobile phone while driving have higher collision rates than those who do not. Our message is simple – Switch off before you drive off – If you need to make a phone call or check messages, pull in and park in a safe place. No phone call is worth putting your life or the lives of others at risk.”

To highlight the dangers of driving while using the mobile phone a 30 second radio ad will run on all national and local radio stations throughout September. Further information on the topic can be found in the RSA’s information leaflet ‘Mobile Phones and Driving’ which can be downloaded from www.rsa.ie.

The leaflet provides the following advice for drivers:
1.Switch off before you drive off. Turn off your mobile phone or put it on the ‘silent’ or ‘meeting’ option setting before starting your journey.
2.Use the voicemail on your mobile phone so people can leave messages for you while you’re travelling.
3.Stop regularly on your journey so you can check for messages and return any calls.
4.Make sure the place you stop is a legal and safe place to park. It is illegal to stop on a motorway unless it is an emergency.
5.If you call someone on their mobile phone while they are driving, be aware that they should be concentrating on their driving and not on your conversation. Tell them you will call them back or wait until they pull their car over.
*Department for Transport UK